Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Agents of the New Evangelization

One of my best friends, Dave Hostert, died three years ago today.  In his mid-forties, it was not only too early but also too sudden.  No time for good-byes, or for thank-yous.

His wonderful family has moved forward in heroic fashion.  They've honored his memory and kept on "keeping the faith," as Dave would have wanted.  And they've been witnesses to Christian love for many people along the way.

When he went to God, many people noted the fact that Dave the great history teacher died on such a historic day for our country.  This year I'm struck by the fact that Dave the great teacher of the faith sees the anniversary of his death fall in the week when the Church prepares for Catechetical Sunday.  Indeed, every year on the third Sunday of September, we are invited to recognize and celebrate all those who help hand on the faith as teachers and catechists.  And today I'm particularly grateful for the profound impact that Dave had on my own faith journey.

Great teachers are always even greater students, and this was certainly true of Dave.  A fearless intellectual along the lines of G.K. Chesterton, he was unafraid of questioning conventional wisdom and of exploring the reasons for counter-cultural Church teachings.  A throwback kind of guy, he was able to share the ancient wisdom of the Church in a way that spoke to the questions and challenges of our time.  He taught me the importance of daily devotions and spiritual exercises on the journey of Christian discipleship.  He helped me appreciate the Sacrament of Reconciliation as the great gift of God's mercy which it is.  He embodied the classic definition of theology as "faith seeking understanding."

This year, the U.S. Bishops have selected the following theme for Catechetical Sunday:  "Catechists and Teachers as Agents of the New Evangelization."  And now that I have a little better perspective on Dave's life, I can see the many ways that he was an agent of the new evangelization.

Can you name agents of the new evangelization in your life?  Can you remember who helped teach you how to pray?  Can you name those who helped you learn "by heart" the deep truths of the Creed or the Commandments?  Can you still see and hear those who helped open you to the Word of God or the mystery of our sacramental encounters with the Lord? 

Each of us is indebted to a web of people and events that have led to our encounter with Christ and have fostered our ongoing process of personal conversion.  If we could trace our way back through the friends and acquaintances, the family ancestors, the teachers and pastors of the Church, we'd ultimately wind our way back to the Apostles themselves.  These original "agents of evangelization" simply followed the promised Spirit and brought the news of the Risen Lord to the pagan world.

In the end, the Holy Spirit is "The Special Agent" of the new evangelization.  He just needs people, like Dave Hostert, to be willing instruments in his hands.